We’re firm believers over here that, if you’re listening, these bodies of ours may actually communicate what they need. And because I’ve done the exact opposite for some time—ignoring all the signs that my body is totally fed up with me—she’s been a bit of a loud b*tch lately, pardon my French.
See, even though I’m a healthy eater, and I put really nice stuff on my skin, and I exercise regularly—and despite what I sometimes preach—my stress levels have probably been way off the charts for way too many years. I think about fifteen. (My stress is sneaky too because people who don’t know me well think that I’m totally chill, as I quietly churn. Sometimes I even trick myself!) But from aches and pains to hiding periods, my body isn’t really playing ball anymore.
Which is why not too long ago, when I came face to face with a mountain of fresh ginger at the small grocer on my corner, and almost involuntarily reached for one of the gnarled stubs—it gave me pause.
Sure, I knew ginger was healthy, and that ginger tea was good for digestion. But I was unprepared for the barrage of health benefits this strange and spicy root has to offer, some supported by science and others anecdotally.
Just a few that I came across: Ginger does contain powerful digestive enzymes; it also helps the body sweat and detoxify (I can attest!); it’s highly anti-inflammatory; it strengthens the immune system; it reduces nausea and is a common prescription for morning sickness; it’s been shown to help with arthritis; in a study done by Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center ginger powder caused cell death in ALL the ovarian cancer cells it was applied to; in another study it slowed growth of colorectal cancer cells; Chinese medicine uses it to assuage menstrual cramps; Ayurveda tells you to eat it fresh daily and also uses it as medicine; and word on some women’s sites is that it helps bring on hiding periods too. Wouldn’t you know. (I’ll have to report back on that one.)
Lately I’ve been grating some fresh ginger into hot water for tea, and adding it (also grated) into simple warm vegetable dishes with olive oil, lemon and fresh cilantro. It’s delicious, and it seems to help me digest the veggies better. Though that could be a placebo-power-of-suggestion thing too.
Has your body talked to you lately? What has it said? Do you eat ginger?
Since share is in the air today, I’m going to tell you how it is that I came to abandon twenty or so odd years of vegetarianism in favor of a little conscious meat eating. Not exactly standard inspirational fare for Meatless Monday I know, but I’d like to open up the forum to discuss how it is that some people thrive as vegetarians and vegans, while others flat out fail—and not for lack of trying. Because as much as Siobhan and I support eating less meat (which is what MM is all about)—and probably about 99% of carnivores could stand to cut some out—we mostly support everyone finding what is right for their body. Sans dogma!
Now, I’ve definitely heard people say that cutting out meat and dairy has helped their energy levels, their PMS, their digestion, and their skin! And I truly wish that was my story.
But it’s not. See, several months ago—when I was still a mostly-vegetarian-sometimes-vegan-sometimes-fish-eater—I was not feeling good at all. My digestion was a nightmare, which it had been for years. I was tired to the point of having trouble getting up. My mind was dull. I was generally disinterested by most things. And I wasn’t getting my period. It was just awful.
I’m well aware that these are also all symptoms of depression, but I can’t emphasize how much they were manifesting in a physical way as well (mind-body-duh, of course). But it made it very challenging to pull out of this fog. For instance, I would try to do yoga and get extremely dizzy. And I literally felt PMS all the time. Various types of anemia were hypothesized, along with thyroid issues, and B12 deficiencies. Ultimately, my blood work pointed to an excess of a certain hormone (prolactin) and no good explanation for why there was so much of it.
Thanks to several alternative health practitioners, I was able to get back on track (and back to menstruating). But all three of them told me to start integrating some form of red meat into my diet. Now, that’s not the only thing I did—herbs, supplements, and working on healthier boundaries were also in the mix—but it has seemed to help with my energy and most definitely with my digestion. Amazingly, veggie-centric dinners leave me bloated and uncomfy, while a grass-fed hamburger makes my tummy happy. For some reason eating vegetarian during the day is good though, so I often practice a vegan before 6pm routine.
So who here thrives as a veg and who can’t stomach it? Do you think it’s a question of blood type (I’m an O)? Or maybe it’s a dosha thing? As always, we want to hear your stories.
Regardless, I’m learning to accept and maybe even embrace my occasional meat eating. It took a little time to get used to it, but now I’m actually finding it liberating to not be so strict with myself.
Image from old Time Magazine cover
Quick disclaimer and then we’re going to get right into it and talk about the birth control pill (Happy Monday!): Nothing I say in this post constitutes medical advice, and you should never stop or start taking prescription drugs without talking with your doctor. (Especially the starting part; pretty sure that would be illegal, right?) Also:
There’s no judgment—implicit or explicit—on anyone who is on or has been on birth control pills. Some people love them, some people have to take them for medical reasons, some people abhor them. Here, we want to talk candidly about what happens when you go off them. Because, whoa. That can be hectic.
Feeling like an overshare, so here, I’ll start: I got on the pill for the first time pretty late, comparatively speaking. I was 22 or 23, I got on Ortho, and almost instantly became the girl who cries at commercials (OK, still am, always have been, but this was extreme!) and one time I even broke a plate when my loving boyfriend at the time did basically nothing. This was not normal for me! I was being nuts! I quickly got off it, quickly went back to normal, and then didn’t start it again for another several years.
I was 26 or so when I went back on the pill, Mircette this time, thinking it would add convenience to my personal life, and clear up my skin—after all, that’s what my dermatologist told me would happen. I stayed on it for two years. During that time I didn’t cry a lot or break stuff. My skin was OK but not perfect. My libido was OK—which seems better than most, according to this new research, but “OK” does not equal amazing. I didn’t have major mood swings or anything. But something never felt quite right. The best way I can put it is, I sort of felt like a prisoner in my own body. I’m not sure why, and no, I can’t elaborate, but something never felt quite right. It was FINE. But FINE has never been all that appealing to me, and so I talked it over with my GYN and we decided it was time to stop. It wanted to let nature run its course. And by nature I mean, like, ovulation and stuff.
After I went off the pill, my skin freaked out. It was erratic for a few months, throughout which I tried everything: Products, lasers, facials…products. Not clean ones, either. (This was pre- everything I now know.)
My take, in retrospect, is that you shouldn’t try a million things at once, nor should you spazz out. If I were doing it all over again, here’s what I would do: Coach my body, with the help of a doctor or acupuncturist or both, to get my hormones in balance. I would stay away from, or at least limit, eating hormone-pumped meat and dairy, take folic acid and omegas daily, get plenty of sleep and keep a routine, and use a gentle, organic skincare regimen.
I emphasize hormone balancing because what’s happening in your skin is a reflection of what’s happening inside your body—not on the surface of your skin. Also, because the other thing that happened when I went off the pill: my period went away for the better part of a year. I have many explanations for this, both medical and completely esoteric, but suffice to say it was really disconcerting. To be in your late 20s and have it…missing, for months at a time, feels indescribably bad. On the PLUS side (there’s always a plus side, you guys): Now that I’m regular again, I’m so very thankful every single month when my period comes. And no, I will never, ever go on the pill again.
Anyway, because we understand the challenges that come with such a major decision, we were moved by a recent reader letter from Paris. She’s gone off the pill and, yes, ugh, skin woes. She really wants NMDL readers to help! In her words:
“I accept that my body is going to go on a roller coaster ride. I’m ready for the acne this time. Last time I thought I could just stop taking the pill and my skin wouldn’t talk to me. How oily my scalp got and the abundance of acne caught me by surprise. I froze up and caved in and took the pill again. This time, I will be ready for them, and hope to have better ways to deal with them or even prevent them.
Are you guys all in love with her now, too? We thought so. Now let’s help a girl out. Who’s tried what? And even if you don’t have advice for Paris Girl, have you gone off the pill ever? What happened? Share, yes? Please and thank you.